What does it look like to be a Christian gamer?

Okay people how are you handling online gaming with your kids when it comes to multiplayer and the multi’s are using bad language?

And do abbreviated cuss words count?

What if your kid thinks wtf stands for watch the fox instead of something naughty?

Or what if you just ignore the language altogether?

At the thought of not being able to play multi player Minecraft our son says this, “Mom and Dad, I have the perfect solution. I will build a church on Mine Craft and preach to all the cussin’ people about Jesus. A Mine Craft Missionary!!”

Amazing what will send some people right into Missions.

Our son loves Minecraft. A great game in our opinion because of the creativity and problem solving skills that are strengthened in the game. Our biggest problem used to be managing the amount of time played in a given day. But we have pretty much found our sweet spot there. Our kids get 30 minutes of screen time a day (more on weekends) after they have completed their homework. Don’t get me wrong – they’d love more time but that’s all they get. We have seen first hand what too much time on electronics can do as far as altering moods, attitudes and respect levels. The kids know their time limit. We use timers around our house and it works great. Ipod timer, kitchen timer – whatever is handy. They set it and we all hear it when it goes off. If arguing and begging for more time starts then time is taken away from the next day. It’s working out well.

So right when I felt all good about this gaming thing is when the next thing popped up. Online multiplayer gaming. This is where you play on a public server and other people play as well. Minecraft is played by people of all ages so you have adults on there as well as kids. And their comments show on the side of the screen while you play the game.

Somehow we got started down this multiplayer path not really knowing what we were doing. Mitchell has a few friends who play multiplayer and showed him how. At first I monitored it like a hawk and then not so much because it was all on the up and up. Until a few weeks ago I decided to sit down and watch Mitchell play. And this was our conversation as I watched the comment thread on the computer screen:

Me: pointing to the letters “wtf” on the screen typed by an online player  What do you think those letters mean Mitchell?

Mitchell: I have no clue. Pause a few seconds. “watch the fox”?

Me: relieved. Yeah, probably. Then thinking better of it. Well, no. That’s not what it stands for. It stand for a really bad word and you don’t ever want to use it.

Mitchell: Okay, Mom. I won’t. I don’t usually pay attention to the comment thread unless they’re saying something directly to me.

A few minutes later I see some booty talk followed by some other innuendo as well as God’s name taken in vain. One comment said, “Give me your Mom’s credit card number.” I’m sure it was a joke?? But still.

And that’s when I said, “Turn it off. We’ve got some talking to do.”

We talked about all the inappropriate references that were on the screen. Mitchell’s defense was that he doesn’t pay attention to that stuff. He ignores it. But even so he had just asked someone to stop cussing. I saw where he had typed it before I even got there to watch him play. I was proud of him for standing up for what was right and praised him for that. But I pointed out that it started back up shortly after he asked them to stop. And if your eyes see it you really can’t ignore it no matter how hard you try. We talked about how the Bible says to flee from sin – not ignore sin. On the flip side we talked about what it means to live in a world where many people don’t know and follow Jesus. And we can’t expect people who don’t know Jesus to use words that will glorify God. We asked the question, “What does it look like to be a Christian gamer in the world we live in?” How can we be a light in this community without being sucked into the junk that comes along with it? And this is about the time Mitchell felt the sudden call of God into Minecraft Missions. Ha!

I am totally uncomfortable letting him play on multiplayer right now and the way we left it two weeks ago was that I needed time to pray about it, talk to Dad about it and do some research. Maybe there are Christ-centered servers that we don’t know about yet. And maybe he could start his own server and monitor who comes in himself and stick to Christian friends from church and school for now. He can still play as a single player and there are some servers that are supposedly more kid friendly than others. Supposedly he was on one of those “good servers”. So we are still figuring out what this online gaming thing looks like for us and for our son.

If you are a Christian gamer how do you handle some of this stuff? Does the constant language offend you or are you just “used to it” by now? Do you ever find yourself tempted to use some of the same language you are reading or hearing as you play your games? I’d love to hear your input.